05/08/2013 04:20 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2013

For Stepmothers Who Dread Mother's Day

How about this for a Mother's Day Hallmark card for all the custodial and non-custodial stepmothers out there who pitch in on a daily basis, often for years on end, spending hours and hours of their time in an effort to make the lives of their spouses' children happy, healthier and joyful including driving, shopping, helping with homework, reading, cleaning up messes and acting in "motherly" ways:


Yup, this Sunday is Mother's Day and Hallmark and reality are once again on a collision course.

Many stepmothers will get their feelings hurt, their hopes dashed, their efforts unacknowledged and that sinking feeling of "why in the world do I even try?"

First, know that you are not alone. It's only been the occasional stepmother I've met that wasn't bothered in some way by the fact that Mother's Day was a glaring example of the feeling so many stepmothers feel, whether it's Mother's Day or not, that they don't exist, matter or even seem to make a dent in the lives of their stepchildren.

Second, plenty of mothers have gone through the same feeling on these made-up days of forced signs of appreciation and love and have spent the day wanting to have the day off as a mother.

If you're a seasoned stepmother who's learned the hard way that despite trying to show love and care for your stepchildren, you probably learned a long time ago that blood is indeed thicker than water and that despite not wanting to believe the pesky study that showed that only approximately 20 percent of young adult stepchildren have genuine feelings of love towards their stepmothers, you knew it to be true.

You learned to not take it personally. You knew it had nothing to do with you. You knew it had to do with the loyalty binds that most children have for their biological parents, especially their mothers. You knew that the term "stepmother" was a role that's never been quite defined despite it having the word "mother" in it.

You learned to step back from stepparenting and allow your partner and his ex to figure out the best way to parent if they were able. If they couldn't talk to one another without getting a team of mediators and attorneys involved, you learned to let go and trust your partner to parent his own kids because he was, after all their father. You learned it was more productive to be an ally to your stepchildren rather than pretend you were their mother.

You accepted the basic reality that you are not their mother. You learned to involve yourself in the lives of your stepchildren without expectation or need for acknowledgement, other than the basic common courtesies that human beings should expect, like saying "please and thank you" and acknowledging your presence in your own home.

You knew that some of them had mothers who were angry and bitter and it didn't matter if it was you, or Jane or Susie or Sally, no good was going to be said about you to those children and any effort on their part to genuinely acknowledge you on "Mother's Day" had the potential to be met with emotional punishment from the mothers who weren't done grieving, resenting or moving on with their lives.

If you're a custodial stepmother, you knew that Mother's Day could be much more painful because you had been willing to step in as mother for your partner's children with love and genuine care. For many of you, the mothers of your partner's children had eventually returned (as most absent mothers tend to do) and you were dropped like a hot potato, even those of you who were called "Mom" for years.

You decided to make plans for yourself on Mother's Day because you were self-protective and mature enough to know that being part of a stepfamily is an often complicated and painful affair and there are many sides to many stories and feeling sorry for yourself only resulted in a pity party for one.

You focused on your relationship with your partner and didn't ask your partner to force their children to acknowledge you unless it was the children's idea.

For some of you childfree stepmoms, you rejoiced in the fact that you decided to never become a mother at all.

*I want to acknowledge to the stepchildren who may have read this who had legitimately terrible experiences with their stepmothers. Yes, I know that there are truly selfish and non-caring stepmothers out there, just as there are selfish and non-caring mothers. I know there are stepmothers who have tried, with great success, to alienate their partners from their children (and shame on any father who allows this), who have been abusive, dismissive, non-caring and disinterested. Common sense tells us this article is for them.